Ruby Update: Biting Problem!

Posted by dtismv
Mar 30, 2012
Hi all,
I'm writing with an update on Ruby, our Manchester Terrier mix rescue pup. Ruby is now about 6 months old, rescued from stray-dom and spayed at 4ish mos. She was showing a lot of anxiety and pulling on walks, and fear aggression towards strange people and dogs. She now walks very nicely on a loose leash almost always, and largely ignores or at least controls herself when encountering strange dogs and strange people when out on walks. She is still not liking people coming to the house but we're working on it! She knows sit and down, and we are working on come, stay, and leave it.

My current serious concern is recently she has bitten my 9-year old daughter a couple of times without breaking skin in toy guarding situations. It seems to have started a few weeks ago with growling when the kids followed her into her crate, which the kids were then taught not to do. in the past week or two she has escalated to growling when my daughter (age 9) would take a toy away (which she would do with the intention of throwing it to play fetch for example). This had never raised any problem in the first few weeks that we had her, but as I mentioned Ruby had recently started growling in such instances and then in the last week has bitten a couple of times, not breaking skin. It seems worst when she has rawhide but also happened with a kong with treat inside. One other incident that happened one week ago is the same daughter stepped on Ruby's foot rather hard and she turned and bit my daughter's lower leg hard enough to hurt her but again not breaking any skin. Interesting to me is that nothing like this has happened with my younger daughter (age 7), who in some ways has worse dog etiquette, but who on the other hand is quick to go off and ignore Ruby if Ruby isn't playing on her terms. Also interesting, Ruby has never guarded food at all. She always eats last, and we all take turns hand feeding her or feeding her while holding the bowl. At any rate, I am certainly concerned: we all like Ruby a lot and feel it would be really, really awful to re-home her but I can't risk my kids safety if this behavior can't be nipped in the bud so to speak. Please help!!!
Posted by dtismv
Apr 1, 2012
Sigh, yes, my 9-year old just got snapped in the face. Just a warning shot, a scratch really, but, I have to admit, my very latest sense of everything after some very vigilant observation of late I'm beginning to think I have more of a child training problem than a dog problem on my hands. I'm beginning to really see a pattern that my 9-year old is herself instigating some of this growling and snapping. She's not doing anything mean to the dog or anything, but she just won't stay out of the animal's face!!! Not that the dog's behavior is excused, but sheesh, if I can't train my child any better than this... I'm just beginning to feel that even at 9 maybe she isn't ready for a dog. I so wanted to do everything I could that both dog and child would succeed in this relationship I especially so don't want my daughter to feel like she failed so it really saddens me to consider this just may not be a salvageable situation at this time. I'll let you know what happens...Do still let me know if you have any advice...
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Apr 1, 2012
Hi there,

I am sorry to hear that you have realized you need to train not only the dog but also your 9 year old daughter

The best thing I can suggest is to take obedience training lessons with your both daughters. You should find a class that is taught with positive reinforcement. I have been in those classes many times and there are some parents bringing their children to let them learn how to handle dogs and I think it will benefit a lot in terms of building healthy relationship between Ruby and the kids. With help of the instructor and the parents, dogs soon learn how to respond to commands and children can raise their position to be the leader, rather than just their playmates.

Also, have you taught your dog to "leave it" and "drop it" that we have discussed in your other post? It is very important that your dog drops a rawhide at your (your daughter's) command of "Drop it". Don't use high value treats like rawhide to practice this. Start with a toy or something and offer her a treat to drop the object. Give the object back right away so that she will realize that dropping the object when asked doesn't mean the end of the play or fun. After a few times, you will take the toy away and put it away. Make sure that this toy can be brought in only when you practice this so that it will have some value. Once she learns to drop it, make the object more valuable things such as Kong, etc. but take baby steps. Make her succeed, rather than fail.

Good luck
Posted by KOPCaroline
Apr 3, 2012
Just another 2 cents

It sounds like Ruby is more apt to act up when food treats are involved - try not using these for a while - maybe use squeaky toys instead? Or Nylabones or similar.

It is hard sometimes to teach children what is appropriate and what isn't, and often they find out the hardest way - by getting hurt. I strongly support MHN's idea of going to a training course with your daughter, I think it would really help!

Please keep us updated - wishing you the best of luck!
Posted by LinusMom
Apr 3, 2012
The KINGDOM OF PETS Secrets to Dog Training electronic book and most other dog training guides will tell you to nip this problem in the bud now. Despite the fact that your daughter may need some training too, Ruby is enacting dominance over your daughter and that will lead to a bad situation. In order for the family to be healthy and happy, Ruby needs to understand that she is at the bottom of the pack--even below your daughter.

If you can, take a private obediance class with your daughter and Ruby, or a group if that works better but make sure to tell the instrucftor about the biting so s/he can help you work on that issue specifically.

Also, there are a lot of books and guides out there: How to Raise Your Puppy by the monks of new skete is espeically good. Pick a few up.

But most importantly, you must nip this behavior in the bud as soon as possible.

Posted by dtismv
Apr 4, 2012
I am feeling much less pessimistic about things working out now after meeting as a family and laying down the law a bit. Ruby is certainly very bright and trainable and a great dog with great potential.
Yes I agree the help of an obedience class involving child and dog either group or private would be a great next step; especially since I believe part of the issue is my child turning all of this into a power struggle with me and my husband, I think instruction from a third party would be very helpful.
MHN, yes we have been working on "leave it" but had gotten a bit stymied as Ruby gets soooo wound up about treats we have a hard time even getting her to take a toy to practice with whenever training treats are around. I was thinking perhaps we should work exchanging toys for other toys, or maybe less intensely appealing treats. (Thankfully though I can say the toy guarding issue hasn't really persisted much). We'll keep working at it and keep you posted! Thanks so much everyone,